Numbers Guys Out, Supercomputers In?

Posted by: Kenji Hall on June 28, 2007

Former Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan was said to have a gift for recalling the most arcane economic stats. Similar things have been written about billionaire investor Warren Buffet. The brilliant number cruncher enjoys near-mythical status in our society. But what happens when all the Greenspans and Buffets get replaced by supercomputers? I couldn’t help thinking that when I read in today’s Japanese financial daily Nikkei that Mitsubishi UFJ Securities has a machine ranking in the top 500 list of the planet’s fastest supercomputers. 193rd place, to be exact.

Most supercomputers let car engineers conduct high-speed crash simulations, conduct tests of high-tech weaponry, or tell meteorologists what the weather patterns will look like 30 years from now. It should probably come as no surprise that financial institutions are buying these souped-up calculators to help them prepare for all kinds of what-if scenarios. Computer modeling is by now a common feature of financial trading. With so many factors to consider, who can blame traders for wanting a supercomputer to offer probable scenarios on hedging risk in an array of markets around the globe? Mitsubishi UFJ broke into the ranking by stringing together 448 blade computers running on a special Microsoft OS, known as Windows CCS. This probably isn’t the last we’ve heard of traders recruiting a supercomputer for the team. I wonder, though, if we’re seeing the beginning of the end for the human number-crunchers.

Reader Comments

d00d, get real

July 6, 2007 12:50 PM

come on. a fast car needs an able driver; a "supercomputer" does too. A quick flip through programming for dummies won't bring your average business-math-educated trader up to speed on hardcore computer sci.

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Bloomberg Businessweek’s team of Asia reporters brings you the latest insights on business, politics, technology and culture from some of the world’s biggest and fastest-growing economies.

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